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Parenting: Instructions Not Included


Young couple with father who is too busy to be a parent.

I had a good childhood compared to what kids are going through these days in a complex, ultra-competitive world. There was one weird thing about my upbringing, however, that I’ll always remember. I feel it bears mentioning because it’s something that parents can easily forget, even though it’s so obvious.  I’m talking about the simple truth that children aren’t born with an a priori knowledge about the way things are in this world.

My father, Morton, was a good one as fathers go. He was a good provider, a mensch in every sense of the word. But I swear he had the idea that kids were born with a full set of instructions enclosed. Like a model plane. I don’t know how he acquired this orientation. Maybe he forgot what it was like to be a kid. He once told me his parents were “teachers.” Then why wasn’t he like them?

Morton grew up to become a super-busy entrepreneur with the responsibility of two growing businesses on his shoulders. There wasn’t much left of him when he came home after the pressures of a twelve hour day at the office. Really, though, Morton needed to make more time and save more energy to be a father. It seemed like he just wanted us to be around him and grow up straight and tall, all by ourselves.

Morton fully grasped the idea that things don’t happen by themselves. He built two businesses into thriving, large scale companies. Why, then, did he think that children can grow up properly without constant attention? My father died eleven years ago, so the answer will forever remain a mystery.

I imagine most parents are great teachers. They know how much fun it is to teach kids something new. Children love to be taught about mostly anything, especially by a caring parent in a gentle manner. I suppose, therefore, this article is intended for my Dad and the few high achieving, constantly busy parents who have missed out on the joys of bringing up a child.

I started saying things to my daughter when she was only two years old. I knew she wasn’t going to fully understand these things until later in life. Something told me to start pouring the positive instructions in as soon as she began to speak in full sentences. One of the most important things I feel she heard from me early on was this: “You can do anything good you put your mind to.”

I don’t think anything in the world can replace positive, enabling statements like this one spoken at an early stage in a child’s development.  Simple statements like, “You’re so good,” “You are beautiful,” “You can do that,” and “Good job,” can make a huge difference in a child’s motivation, achievement, and sense of well being as an adult.

It doesn’t take much time to say something positive to your child every day. Keep it simple and keep it literal.  Young children don’t barricade their minds.  Whatever you say to them goes straight into their subconscious. If you have to correct your child, do it in a way that engages their cooperation.

From early on, I spoke to my daughter as I would to an adult, always respecting her feelings and intelligence.  To be honest, it wasn’t that hard because my daughter is an only child, and she had good qualities to begin with (thanks mostly to my wife’s DNA). We are fortunate that our daughter began life with good characteristics. Most children do. Obviously, it takes more than good ingredients to make a happy and successful adult. It takes good bakers (parents) to make the cake.

Today, my daughter is happy, enthusiastic, and married to a great guy. She is a successful Assistant State Attorney. To extend the clichéd metaphor; “the proof is in the pudding.”

Looking back on my life, I ask myself: “What have you done that is truly important and beneficial to this world. I have to say my greatest contribution, by far, is my daughter.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.

 

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Innate Goodness


There’s a lot of stuff happening in the world that is bad—really bad.  We know this, and we tend to focus on the bad stuff.  So, I’m asking myself: what is good?

For starters, we are good—even the worst of us.  The trick is; how do we get to that goodness?

I have found that it takes some work to get to the goodness.  In my case, it’s taken a hell of a lot of work.  It’s taken constant digging.  I know what I should do and what I’m supposed to do.  I’ve gotten pretty good at doing the stuff I need to do and should do.  For example, I’m thinking about working for the best democratic presidential candidate that I can find.  Am I excited about doing this?  Not really.  It’s just a matter of necessity.  We have to remove the lunatic currently occupying the White House.

Okay, so there are all sorts of things we have to do and should do.  What about the good stuff?  What about the place inside where goodness happens naturally?  It’s a feel-good place and the source of true inspiration.

When I meditate in the morning, I have, on many occasions, experienced the good place inside me.  I’ve experienced peace, love, and joy.  I like these feelings.  Who wouldn’t?  The problem is that these feelings fade away too quickly.  I often wonder how so many people do so many good things consistently.  I’m thinking of people like doctors and nurses, of gifted mental health counselors, of social workers, of accountants who work hard under heavy pressure to provide essential services to businesses and individuals.  The list goes on.  How do you guys do it EVERY DAY?  If you are a hard-working person, please clue me in.

Why do I wonder?  Well, I like to PLAY.  I try to make a game out of everything I do, except going in for a colonoscopy.  I admit that one is a bit of a challenge.  Not too long ago, I held down honest jobs in sales, marketing, and real estate.  I even did accounting for a while.  I worked in a family business for thirty years doing all of the above–not hard work, mind you–just plain old don’t kill yourself work.  After all of those years of (ahem) work, you would think I’ve changed, matured, and learned to accept that life is hard and full of work.  Nope.  I haven’t changed one bit.  I still like to play.  I envy people who like to work.  I imagine it’s much easier to live in the world as an adult if you like to work.  I wouldn’t know, of course.

Are you resonating with any of this?  If yes, please drop me a line or two.

Let’s get back to the essential goodness inside each one of us.  How do I (we) tap into it more consistently?  It drives me nuts how it comes and goes.  If I’m feeling more peace, more love, more joy, than I can be and do more for other people.  I’m working on making these good feelings more consistent.  If I can pull it off, I’ll be sure to brighten your day with some goodness first aid.

Update:  I have found a way to make this happen with something called Somatic Experiencing.  In my third session, I felt and visualized light pulsating throughout my body and mind.  Now, I feel more grounded.  I feel more ALIVE.  Since I know blogs are not supposed to be too long, I’ll write more about this in my next post.  Stay tuned.

David Gittlin has written three feature length screenplays, produced two short films, and published three novels. Before quitting his day job, he spent more than thirty years as a marketing director building expertise in advertising, copy writing, corporate communications, collateral sales materials, website content/design and online marketing.